Equality Australia is supporting a ground-breaking discrimination complaint made to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal by Mrs Rachel Colvin, a committed Christian and teacher formerly employed by Ballarat Christian College until February 2019.

This case is brought under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act 2010, which contains protections from discrimination on the basis of religion and political belief, but also broad religious exceptions (also referred to as exemptions) that allow religious organisations and individuals to lawfully discriminate on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, gender and other grounds, but not political belief (sections 81-84). 

Mrs Colvin, who had an unblemished teaching record with the College since 2008, alleges that she was counselled and then forced to resign when she refused to agree to and abide by an amended statement of faith, contrary to her own political and religious beliefs, that ‘… a marriage can only be between a male and a female …’

Mrs Colvin offered to teach in accordance with the schools’ beliefs. She simply wouldn’t sign a statement purported to reflect her own beliefs that was actually at odds with her Christian beliefs.

Mrs Colvin alleges discrimination by the non-denominational Christian College on the basis of her political and religious beliefs, which include as a Christian who believes that same sex marriage has the same potential as heterosexual marriage to be a reflection of God’s love when it reflects the life-giving, self-sacrificing love of Jesus.

Mrs Colvin alleges that, from around August 2018 and in the shadow of the national marriage postal survey, the College informed her that she would no longer be offered certain teaching and professional development opportunities at the school, forcing her to resign in February 2019. This was so despite Mrs Colvin offering to remain silent about her beliefs with her students. 

Mrs Colvin is married to her husband Mark, has three children and attended church in Ballarat and Melbourne during her time teaching at the school. She grew up in an evangelical Christian household and has been a missionary.

Mrs Colvin is being represented pro bono by barristers Elizabeth Bennett, Tim Goodwin and Suganya Pathan and law firm Clayton Utz, with the support of Equality Australia.

Biography – Rachel Colvin

Rachel Colvin grew was born in Chicago and grew up in Arizona from the age of four, when her family moved there for her father to take up his first head Pastor role at a church.

Colvin attended faith-based Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, where she graduated with honours in a double-major International Studies and Fine Arts degree.

She travelled extensively and met her husband, Mark, in England. They married and moved to Mark’s home in England where they stayed for two years until a job opportunity drew them to Ballarat, Australia. Rachel took a job at Ballarat Christian College, a non-denominational school where she remained until 2019.

Quotes attributable to Rachel Colvin

“I am devastated by what happened to me. I loved my job. I am an extremely hard-worker and loyal to a fault, and to have it end the way it did was, at first, professionally humiliating.

“Now, I see it slightly differently. I see it as a God-given opportunity to stand up for what is right, to represent what God is really about: loving others.

“As hard as it’s been, I’m thankful; because God is using me to be a voice for the voiceless, to represent the underrepresented. 

“I am bringing the case to let my LGBTQI students know that they aren’t deformed or disordered. They were created as they are, in the image of God, and that they are fully loved by God and share equal dignity with all human beings.

“I am hoping to achieve policy change, so that LGBTQI students and staff don’t have to worry about being expelled or fired due to their gender identity.”

Images of Mrs Colvin are available here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1IBE8naZGCHxejXXRm0jDEjVa2xmy2ppq

Quotes attributable to Anna Brown

“Mrs Colvin offered to teach in accordance with the schools’ beliefs. She simply wouldn’t sign a statement purported to reflect her own beliefs that was actually at odds with her Christian beliefs.

“When I first met Rachel last year I was immediately struck by her compassion and empathy, and the importance of her faith in her teaching and to who she is as a person.

“Australians shouldn’t be hounded out of jobs simply because their religious beliefs support and affirm same-sex relationships, and respect the dignity of LGBTIQ people.

“Sadly the students at Ballarat Christian College have lost a caring and capable teacher, simply because an employer has sought to impose its narrow minded version of Christianity and control the personal beliefs of its staff.

“These issues are raised squarely by the proposed federal Religious Discrimination Bill, which presents even greater risks to workers in religious organisations who believe that LGBTIQ people are whole and human, not sick and broken.

“Exemptions from anti-discrimination laws privilege the interests of religious institutions over the rights and freedoms of everyday Australians, and undermine equality before the law for many vulnerable Australians.

“The recent Royal Commission into religious institutions has shown that these organisations do not deserve to be exempted from anti-discrimination laws. They require oversight and regulation – to follow the same rules as every other school.

“All schools in Australia should have the same rules – no exceptions. Kids deserve the certainty of a supportive environment and teachers deserve to be who they are without fear of dismissal.

“It’s truly saddening that a non-denominational Christian College can see fit to employ teachers representing many different denominations of Christianity, but its acceptance of diversity ends when those Christians hold views that support and affirm LGBTIQ people and same-sex relationships.”

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